Home alone – a pandemic diary (day nine -19.03.20)

Father’s Day. A sad day for me as it has been for fifteen years, since my father passed away; then, two years later, I also lost my grandfather, who was like a father to me. So, from having two special persons to celebrate with on Father’s Day, I was left with none. Like a dear friend who recently and very unexpectedly lost her father; today she dedicated such beautiful words to him that she moved me to tears. It’s her first Father’s Day without her father, and I understand her only too well. This year, sadness mingles with anxiety, so it feels worse than ever.


Home, work, books and a new recipe

Today I stayed at home. It was a titanic effort as Thursday is the day I always buy my favourite magazine HOLA, that I have religiously read for almost 40 years. There is a newspaper kiosk some 100 metres from my building, but I decided not to go out – not just for that reason. I was proud of my civic attitude but torn as I love to read the latest gossip. I consoled myself thinking about the book I am now re-reading after many, many years: Wuthering Heights, the darkest, but also the most romantic love story I can think of. Only yesterday a friend and I were discussing how dark, gothic love stories are the most romantic of them all – like Dracula, by Bram Stoker. Is there anything more romantic than pursuing your lost love over the centuries? We both agreed there is not.


Back to corona-reality. I was busy all day working by my window, and for a first day of a State of Emergency I didn’t notice any changes. Only a few people on the street, true, most walking their dogs. Someone told me the story of a man in Italy or Spain who, fed up of being home, took a stuffed dog out pretending he was walking it, so that he had an excuse to get some fresh air. The authorities didn’t like the idea.


I worked during the whole morning – revising texts, speaking on the phone, checking on my emails… I took a lunch break and tried a new recipe. In a house where there is always a lot of food – the boys are always ravenous hungry –  and consequently leftovers, I’m not used to cooking for myself. Only now I have no alternative, so I made chicken thighs in the oven with lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard. They were very tasty, and I reminded myself to cook this dish for the boys once we are reunited. Lately I have been trying some new dishes and my efforts have been duly appreciated. Having had Mimi with us for so many years, she has been in charge of most of the cooking.


A new pastime

Back to work in the afternoon. The street is quiet. The silence is palpable. I see neighbours on their balconies – how I wish I had one now – and from time to time I see the same people passing by walking their dogs. From being a duty one has to perform, walking dogs has become a pastime, an excuse to go out and get some fresh air. Not that we have come to a situation where we cannot go out should we wish to – yet. The particularities of our State of Emergency have not been communicated so far; or at least I haven’t seen them yet.


Being alone at home can make you slightly obsessive. Today before lunch I was feeling cold and with a slight headache so I decided to take my temperature, just in case… fortunately my usual reptilian-like temperature hadn’t changed one bit and the thermometer showed a more than safe 35,9 º Celsius. I immediately felt better and thought it must be due to so many hours looking at the small letters of my laptop; at the office I have a much bigger, much more comfortable screen.


The pandemic figures

I had a videocall with a colleague who is in quarantine in S. Paulo, Brazil, and he told me in Italy the peak of the pandemic is expected by the end of Mars. I fervently hope so! I believe it will be a sign that, also in Europe, things will slowly get better. As they have in China. But not as yet – today’s numbers are scary; 5.000 new cases in Italy, almost 700 in the UK! In Portugal (a small country of less than 10 M people) we have 143 more cases than yesterday, with a total of 785 infected.  When this all began, a Portuguese mathematician predicted we’d have around 500 cases around 20 March and 1.000 by the end of the month. On 19 March we already have more than what he predicted. Today I also heard a doctor (who is responsible for one of the hospitals that are treating Covid-19 patients) saying that 80% of the confirmed cases have mild symptoms so patients stay at home, while only 20% require hospital care; among these, 5% are serious cases.


As much as reality looks bleak, let’s try keep our spirits high and our hopes intact. As for HOLA, maybe tomorrow I’ll find the courage to go outside and walk the 100 metres… or maybe not, I’ll just stay at home, looking out of the window, and watch the dog-walkers pass by.

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